Why Hartlepool is set to give us unique insight into the value of Sats

19th May 2015 at 10:21
Primary testing

This year on GCSE results day, I shall be taking a particular interest in Hartlepool. Indeed, I won’t be the only one.

The reason for this slightly improbable focus goes all the way back to 2010 when the Teesside town was the only local authority in the country where every single primary school took part in the Sats boycott.

In this small resort five years ago every single Year 6 was spared the stress of the Sats tests; stress that has risen by 200 per cent in the last 12 months, according to the NSPCC.

Those with longer memories will remember that the 2010 boycott, organised by the NUT and the NAHT, scored some notable successes, including the abolition of the key stage 2 writing test.

But the tests at the end of primary survived. The reasons given were par for the course: they are used to hold schools accountable for their pupils’ attainment, they inform parents and secondary schools about the performance of individual schools, they help monitor standards nationally. 

And with the new Conservative government readying itself to make the tests harder still, they look even less likely to be going anywhere.

So what will the GCSE results from plucky Hartlepool reveal? Well, imagine if results were to go up. Imagine if, on a town-wide basis, kids did better than expected. What would that tell us about the effects of Sats?

Of course, the GCSE results for Hartlepool won’t tell us everything, it’s true. After all, at the time, children were prepared all year within the system geared towards Sats, progress can speed up or slow down at secondary school, and the GCSEs themselves have changed.

But it will show that it is possible for students to achieve in GCSEs without having done Sats. They will show us it is possible, even, to go on and do A-levels. They will show us that the schools ecosystem doesn’t fall over without them.

Could we find something better than Sats to hold schools accountable, check pupil progress and monitor standards at the end of primaries? Those who are interested in this question should take a particular interest in Hartlepool. 

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